As the number of deaths from the overdose of drugs is increasing throughout the nation, the Maryland Delegate Dan Morhaim – a practicing physician has introduced four separate bills to completely alter the drug policy in Maryland. The fourth bill, the Maryland House Bill 1119, decriminalizes the use and possession of extremely small amounts of drugs. Instead of reducing the use of drugs, criminalizing the users of drugs increases the stigma, amplifies the risks of overdose of drugs, and drives the users away from the required treatment and harm reducing services. The main aim of the bill is to keep the drugs users possessing minimal amounts of drugs out of the system of criminal justice and save critical resources and expenses involved in saddling more citizens involved in drugs related crime. The country, which initiated the law for eliminating penalties for the low-level possession of illegal drugs, was Portugal in 2001.
Clauses of the Bill
In addition to limiting the penalties for the possession and the use of de minimis amounts of drugs, the bill aims at penalizing the people involved in possessing, using less than 10 grams of marijuana drugs, or using, possessing the de minimis amount of a controlled dangerous substance. The bill aims to explain the provisions for the issuance of citations to the users possessing or using less than 10 grams of marijuana drugs or using and possessing the de minimis amount of controlled dangerous substance specified. The definitions of the de minimis amounts in the bill are:
- 10 grams of marijuana
- 2 grams of cocaine
- 1 gram of heroin
- 10 tablets of MDMA
- 0015 grams of LSD
- 1 gram of methadone
- 1 gram of amphetamine
According to the clauses in the bill, the person possessing or using marijuana drugs cannot be fined for more than $1000 or imprisoned for more than a year or both. If the user is a first time user , and is caught possessing or using the de minimis amount , then he cannot be fined for more than $100 and if it is the second time , he cannot be fined more than $250 and if it is the third violation , then he cannot be fined for more than $500.
About Dan Morhaim
Dan Morhaim has been an active member of the Maryland House of Delegates since the beginning of 1994. He serves as a Deputy Majority Leader in the House of Delegates. He is a certified physician who has been in practice for more than 30 years. He has always been in the front line, always treating patients in the internal and emergency medicine. He is an important part of the faculty at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and at University of Maryland Medical School. He has written numerous medical journals and books.
Prerequisites to fines
Some conditions are imposed alongside the fines. If a person below 21 or 21 is caught committing a violation which is punishable under the subparagraph 1,2 and 3 of this subparagraph, he shall be ordered to visit a drug education center that has been approved by the Department of Health and Dental Hygiene. He will undergo an assessment or test for substance abuse disorder and will undergo treatment if required. If a user is caught smoking marijuana in a public place, he is not to be fined more than $500. If a police officer cites a person possessing the de minimis quantity of the drug, then the citation will have to include the address and the name of the person charged, the time and date when the violation was committed, the value of the fine that is liable to be imposed, and a notice stating the allowance of the prepayment of the fine has to be issued. If a person who is under 21is caught, he will be called for trial. However, if a person is below 18, he will be subject to the Title 3, Subtitle 8A of the Courts Article.